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January 26, 2021

Just Don't Think I'll Scream

just don't think.jpg

Ne croyez surtout pas que je hurle
Frank Beauvais - 2019
KimStim Films

There was no way that Frank Beauvais would have anticipated that a segment of his life would find itself repeated, with variations by millions of people a few years later. The French documentary filmmaker and music consultant had broken up with his partner of the time, leaving Paris for a small, remote town in Alsace in 2016. For part of his half year, he virtually isolated himself and watched four hundred films. What we see is primarily a montage of clips from those films with Beauvais reflecting on his life at that time, his relationships with friends and family, as well as thoughts on the state of the world at that time and life in a village he regarded as alien.

Having "sheltering-in-place" for almost a year, I can not help but be struck personally by what it means to be living alone, having limited contact with the outside world in person, and of course having the time to watch movies, binge if you like. Yes, the circumstances are different. But I was reminded indirectly of my own situation of living in a condo where for the past several months I have occasionally heard, but not seen, one of my next door neighbors. Unlike Beauvais who watched some films with his father, the closest I come to at this time is watching certain streamed films on the day of release or immediately after, and discussing them on Facebook.

As part of the end credits, we see a list of all the films which had excerpts. Many classic French films, some Hollywood films, a few from Asia, and a host of obscurities are listed. A good number of the titles are films I have seen. Some of the films are also familiar to the more casual filmgoer. But there is a visual choice that Beauvais makes in keeping with the sense of disconnection with the world. With the exception of a couple of brief shots, we never see full faces. The shots used include close-ups of eyes, hands and arms, legs, or the camera placed behind the actor(s). It comes as a shock to check that credit list, knowing that without a single, full face, there were clips from personally familiar films like The Age of Innocence and Torso.

Beauvais has subverted the montage documentary as we have usually known it. Even if we think of the world in terms of landscapes or urban environments with anonymous people, memory of cinema, at least narrative cinema, is primarily dependent on the face of the actor. Not that you have to necessarily know who the actor is, but more so actor's function within the story. An example of one of the shots is of an actor lying on a beach, his face away from the camera. A pair of women's legs walks into the shot. And I am sure that the clip is from a film I have seen before. Which raises another question: is it important to know the source of those film clips?

Beauvais discussed the unusual way his film was developed and why he made certain choices in this Filmmaker magazine interview.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at January 26, 2021 07:00 AM